Someone asked me a few days ago why I don’t ever come out from behind my curtain of anonymity as a writer, suggesting that if perhaps the world could see my face/clothes/breakfast and get to know me on more of a personal level, I might become what has now universally come to be known as… an influencer. I shuddered at the thought (although to be fair, the person in question meant it in a nice way). You see… I have a very strong opinion on what it means to be an influencer and after observing, and indeed interacting with, the flocks of them infiltrating Ibiza this past summer, I vowed to continue writing this blog under a pseudonym for as long as I live!
Don’t get me wrong. I believe there are real influencers in this world – people who have the power to influence others through their behaviour and actions. In the past, influencers were considered to be people who worked hard to build a reputation as an expert in a certain field, be it politics, fashion or media. They possessed a natural aptitude for their work or lifestyle; they worked hard; their gifts for communication and abilities to lead/sway the opinions of others made then very valuable assets to the people whose products or philosophies they promoted and represented. Influencers were highly respected. Just to be clear – it is not these influencers with whom I have beef!
As you probably know already, the word influencer has gone on to mean something entirely different to the aforementioned description in the past few years. These days, an influencer is considered to be someone who can use their reach on social media to help businesses and brands sell their products and services. The rise of this type of influencer is not surprising really – it’s like an extension of the influence of the girls in the popular clique at school. Everyone wants to wear what Regina George is wearing. And now that Regina and co have iPhones and Instagram, and can take/post endless photographs of themselves living their #bestlives, it’s easier than ever before for their admirers to imitate their looks/lives.
This is STILL not where my issue lies. Not with the Regina Georges or Cher Horowitzes of the world. Not even with Paris Hilton! The ‘first wave influencers’ as I like to call them were genuinely that. They were influential by nature; by social status; by taste and style. They were the kind of girls who grew up to be FROWers, catching the eyes of street style photographers. And so, it was only a matter of time before Insta-smart brands started noticing them and would enlist their help in increasing brand awareness by sending them free clothes and accessories to be seen in or inviting them to events. If the brands were lucky, the influencers would wear their clothes, be seen at their events and all of a sudden their hordes of adoring fans would follow suit. It’s logical really. I know I’ve certainly bought a few hundred pieces from Zara because it looked like something Kate Moss had worn ‘off-duty’.
What happened next is where I take issue with the influencers of today. All of a sudden, brands stopped relying on taking the risk of sending free clothes to influencers and started offering them real (big) money to start wearing them. A very clever move by the marketing minds behind the labels that eventually turned ‘influencing’ into an actual career. But if you’re wearing what someone is paying you to wear and you’re eating in a restaurant someone has invited you to for free and you’re arriving to a party in a heavily branded vehicle – are you really influential? Or have you become somewhat of a pawn for the advertising industry? The fact is, young girls today aspire to become influencers. They grow up with the desire to be Insta-famous; to want perfect bodies; to have millions of followers.
Whatever happened to wanting to grow up to be a teacher? A doctor? A zookeeper? An astronaut? A mother? A writer? A GOOD PERSON? This summer in Ibiza, the streets were overrun with beautiful girls (because let’s face it, to become an influencer these days one must be blessed with good genes) and their frantic #instahusbands chasing them around Ibiza like paparazzi with a professional camera. Restaurants, beach clubs and hotels are now inundated with requests for free meals or accommodation for visiting influencers in exchange for social media coverage. In fact, many of them are inviting influencers to spend time in their venues because this type of promotion is such a valuable commodity in this day and age. And that’s from top-tier influencers such as Chiara Ferragni (a true first waver) who recently had her bacherlorette party here in Ibiza, to lower-level ‘nano-influencers’ who are known for reaching a specific niche audience. What makes me sad is it’s just not real life and so many people are buying into it!
The clothes you see in the photos – paid for by advertisers. That glossy hair and flawless skin? Courtesy of a make-up artist and hair stylist – not to mention filters. The food you see artfully presented in photos? Went cold while they spent so long fussing over it. That one photo you see on Instagram? Took about two hours to achieve. I know this from experience. I have a few friends who are very well-known influencers in their home countries and I have been known question them at length about their integrity and motivation. One of them loves it (which makes me happy for her); another now hates it but it’s her bread and butter and she can’t afford to quit now (which makes me sad for her).
I don’t know about you, but it’s certainly not the way I want to live my life, which leads me back to the question about my anonymity. I love having the freedom to write about whatever I want, whenever I want. I love being able to express my true opinion. I relish being able to eat whatever I want, when I want (hello McDonald’s drive-thru!) and not have to think about how it is going to look in a photo (or whether it will make me gain weight!). I have fun choosing my own clothes and styling the way I look because that’s how I like it, even if it’s not on trend or goes horribly wrong. I often sit at dinner and leave my phone in my handbag. I never, ever stop to think about how many people have ‘liked’ my posts or watched my stories on Instagram (unless it’s a photo of my cats, in which case I want them to go viral). I only go to the parties I want to go to and I’m not worried about what people will think if I’m not ‘seen’ everywhere on the Ibiza social scene.
Most of all, I am extremely happy people do not judge me – and therefore my blog – based on my looks or taste. You will read this blog if you like it, or you might mark it as spam if you don’t (and I respect your right to do so). If anything I write influences you, then I am flattered. But I don’t think that makes me deserving of freebies in a restaurant or a shop (‘don’t you know who I am?’). I also wouldn’t accept money or free things to write about something I didn’t believe in. I can say this with integrity because I have done it in the past. I was a beauty editor for a glossy magazine in my former life and boy did I perpetuate some myths! The experience was eye-opening and I feel like this blog is my chance to atone for some of my former sins. And so, I pledge to tell the truth… and to write about the REAL Ibiza. Not the glossy, fake, idealised version of the island, but the day-to-day trials and tribulations – as trivial as they may be.
I understand this is the way of the world now. ‘Influencing’ is modern-day marketing and until there’s the inevitable backlash, there’s no point in ignoring it. There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be influential of course. But whatever happened to wanting to influence people for the greater good of the world? Dear influencers of the world… if you have taken the time out of your busy influencing schedule to read this blog, then I implore you. PLEASE use your voice to do good. Take the thousands of euros you made from a sponsored Instagram post and turn it into something positive. Raise awareness for good causes. Encourage people to vote. To donate to charity. To help animals. To stop using plastic. To say no to drugs. To stop gun violence. To help homeless people in the cold. To volunteer. To BE THEMSELVES. A world where we’re all carbon copies of one another isn’t a very exciting world at all, no matter what an advertiser pays you to post. That’s why I live here in Ibiza. Because here, individuality is still encouraged… no matter how many influencers fly in on their sponsored private jets each year!